Montreal seniors’ residence throws party for 20 centenarians

A birthday cake is wheeled out for the 20 Le Waldorf residents, surrounded by family and other well-wishers, who have reached milestones this year. (Janice Arnold photo)

Ruth Horwitz wondered what all the fuss was about. After all, her 105th birthday wasn’t until tomorrow.

Horwitz is the doyenne of the 212 residents at Le Waldorf, an upscale kosher private residence in Côte-St-Luc, Que., which threw a party for its 20 residents who are turning at least 100 years old this year.

Horwitz (nee Herscovitch) was born in Montreal on March 12, 1918.

Dressed in a smart magenta suit, her hair coiffed, Horwitz not only looks years younger, but is in command of her faculties and as gracious a lady as she always was.

Her daughter, Fran Krane, said she was playing bridge until only a few years ago, and now plays Rummikub.

She was a homemaker, but helped her husband, who died 23 years ago, start a customs brokerage business.


Horwitz was also an active volunteer. She started a chapter of ORT, a Jewish education organization, in Hampstead, Que., and was a founding member of the Green Valley Golf Club.

“Her parents lived into their 90s,” said Krane. “She was always health conscious, even before it became fashionable. She avoided sweets and watched her cholesterol.”

Her main physical complaint is macular degeneration, but Horwitz still likes to read using a magnifying screen. She has lived at Le Waldorf, which is part of the Réseau Sélection network of retirement homes, for about a year, after moving from the Castel Royale when it closed.

She may be the oldest, but two other Le Waldorf residents will turn 105 in 2018, as well.

Rose Krulewitz reaches that landmark in October. Also born in Montreal, she was one of the few Jewish women to be accepted into the Macdonald Teachers’ College and to work for the Protestant school board in the 1940s. After living in New York, she returned to teaching in elementary schools in 1964, until her retirement in 1978.

Her son, Arthur Krulewitz, said she must have had a considerable impact on the children. A few years ago, a new resident at Le Waldorf exclaimed: “Miss Eisenstat!” (her maiden name). He had been one of her students – probably 85 years earlier.

She was always health conscious, even before it became fashionable.
– Fran Krane

The third, Emily Clyke, who will be 105 in June, is something of a celebrity. Born in Halifax, she survived the devastating explosion of 1917 with her siblings, one of whom was the late civil rights activist Viola Desmond, whose picture is on the new $10 bill.

Clyke was also a teacher, who started her career at age 17 working a one-room school in Nova Scotia. At age 50, she went back to school, earned two degrees and became a social worker, practising at the Jewish community’s Baron de Hirsch institute and elsewhere.

Doris Tucker Schwartz also worked in the community and celebrated her 102nd birthday in January.

For many years, she was the executive assistant to the director of Allied Jewish Community Services (the forerunner to Federation CJA), before moving to the Jerusalem Foundation.

She is still very much the efficient, no-nonsense person she was in those days. She loves good conversation on just about any topic.

By odd coincidence, she has a namesake in the group. Doris Lerner Schwartz was born a month earlier – in December 1915 – in Winnipeg.

Another career woman, which was unusual for people of her generation, is Sadie Wohl, 103, who ran the family grocery store with her husband. After he died in 1967, she managed the family’s real estate and still takes an interest in business.

You are all role models who inspire us.
– Michael Goldwax

There are seven men among the centenarians.

The oldest is Mike Levine, who was born on June 8, 1917, in rural Huntingdon, Que. In his younger years, he worked on the family farm, raising cattle. He attributes his enduring health to that hard work and fresh air.

At 40, he moved to Montreal with his wife, so their three young children could be raised in a Jewish environment.

Levine was bowling three times a week until a few months ago and his grip has lost little of its iron. “If you shake his hand, it hurts,” said Le Waldorf director-general Michael Goldwax.

Not far behind Levine is Donald Brown, who will be 101 in November. Brown is a dapper, charming gentleman and, although he was an accountant, he is known in Le Waldorf as the “resident comedian” who loves a good time.

There are two Holocaust survivors: Ted Brandt and Leon Huberman, who came here with little and went on to lead successful business and personal lives.

The centenarians were surrounded by children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Goldwax said the party, which was held in a decorated room with food and gifts, was designed to show appreciation for these people who gave so much over such a long period of time.

“You are all role models who inspire us.… The only thing we can do is say thank you,” said Goldwax. It was a sentiment that was echoed by Francine Charbonneau, Quebec’s minister responsible for seniors.

“We must listen to you, to what you have lived,” said Charbonneau. “You are very precious members of the community.”